Winter can feel like the longest season. With shorter days and colder temps, the winter blues can sink in fast. But don’t write off the possibility of hosting an outdoor party – even in the coldest months. With smart planning and a little creativity, you can still host a fun (and safe) gathering outside.
Read on for must-know outdoor hosting tips – and some fun ideas for your menu, atmosphere and more.
Create a cozy atmosphere
- Light up your gathering space. Electric lanterns or candles placed on tables and strings of hanging lights can create a rustic, homey glow. But before you grab a box of lights and your extension cords, make sure you check out our related post: 7 Safety Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights. (Even if it’s after the holiday season the same rules apply!)
- Create a socially distanced setup. Make it easy for guests by setting up tables with the exact number of chairs in their party, and use name cards. If you want to be extra creative, decorate your tabletops with items like ribbon or evergreen branches. If you have any lawn or patio furniture, you can set up several seating stations around your patio or yard.
- Offer seasonal (and easy-to-serve) fare. From cinnamon and pumpkin to cranberries and ginger, fall and winter offer a delicious flavor palette. Plan your menu around seasonal food staples. Make a giant batch of chili and offer an assortment of toppings. Host a dessert-only fête with cinnamon rolls, pumpkin rolls, pies, fudge, cake and more. But hosting an outdoor gathering can be a lot more work than an inside event. So if you’re planning on being outside for the duration of your get together, choose items that are easier to prepare and serve. And remember ‒ there’s no shame in serving store-made items!
- Have a warm beverage bar ‒ and designate one person to be your bartender. Use thermal carafes for hot water to make hot chocolate (using single-serve packets), warm cider, coffee or a favorite adult beverage. (Hot toddy, anyone?) Use single-use cups (bonus points if they’re recyclable) and have guests write their names on them so nobody accidentally picks up the wrong one. If you’re not comfortable serving, ask your guests to bring their own favorite hot beverage along with copies of the recipe that they can share with everyone.
Keep your guests warm
- Set up outdoor patio heaters. Keep the chilly air at bay by renting ‒ or buying ‒ outdoor patio heaters. These units are specifically designed to radiate heat outward, where people are gathered. That means you can benefit from the heater’s warmth, without being huddled around it. Read our related blog on What to Know About Outdoor Patio Heaters to get the full scoop on how patio heaters work, ideal places for setting them up and how to use them safely.
- Build an outdoor fire. One of the more quintessential sounds of a chilly evening is the sound of wood crackling and the smoky scent of an outdoor fire. It’s a great way to add a festive glow to your soiree while keeping visitors toasty warm. From store-bought to homemade, you have a lot of options – but safety should always be your number one priority. Check out Warm Up Cool Nights with Outdoor Fires for tips on getting started and ways you can keep your outdoor fire safe and under control.
- Have extra blankets on hand. Masks shouldn’t be the only accessory at your outdoor gathering. Help your friends and family ward off the chill by having a stack of blankets on hand. You can encourage them to bring their own, as well, but it’s nice to have extras should someone forget ‒ or want to use another one.
Health and Safety Tips for Outdoor Gatherings
- Tell guests ahead of time that if they’re not feeling well, it’s best to stay home. They also should stay home if they’ve been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Sanitize high-touch surfaces. Keep sanitizing wipes or spray handy for doorknobs, light switches, and railings.
- Keep those hands clean. Stock up on the soap and sanitizer, and use them often.
- Limit the number of people handling or serving food. Offer tongs or other utensils, and remember to wash your hands.
Outdoor Winter Game and Activity Ideas
- Host a backyard game tournament. Cornhole or ladder golf, anyone? Enjoy a little friendly competition with your guests where both kids and adults can get in on the action.
- Plan a scavenger hunt. You can set up brackets and offer a grand prize to the winners.
- Make an outdoor movie theater. What better way to enjoy a night under the stars than watching your favorite seasonal or holiday movie? The setup is pretty easy. All you need are:
- A projector
- A plain white sheet or projector screen
- Some kind of media player, whether it’s a DVD player, computer or laptop. Some projectors even offer inputs for streaming sticks (just make sure your Wi-Fi reaches to where you’re planning to set up outside).
- An extra speaker or two
- An extension cord or power strip
Arrange some chairs and blankets outside, and have guests nestle down with movie-themed snacks and beverages. You could even rent a popcorn machine and have cups or bowls filled and ready to go when guests arrive.
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